Director of CK answers your careers questions

As part of our “How to build a career in the chemical industry” webinar we have had some follow up questions from the audience and also pre submitted questions that we did not have enough time to answer on the day. In order to answer these questions, we will publish written answers to these questions from the different panel members over the next couple of weeks. Liam O’Connell, Director of the CK Group and Chairman at REC life sciences has provided some very helpful answers to your questions:


I have a PhD in physics (with some organic chemistry) and I’m trying to get a scientific job at a local pharma hub. I’m being told that I don’t have the right experience for a “skilled” lab position like analytical chemist, and they won’t hire me for an entry level lab position because they think I’ll “get bored”. What advice can you offer me?

The problem you are having is that when you are trying to get into the pharma or chemical sectors most organisations require candidates who are qualified with life sciences degrees or PhD. Therefore you are at a disadvantage in that you are going for roles against candidates who have the ‘relevant’ skills. Companies will always choose the candidate they feel most suited to the role

A physics Phd is still very useful, however I would suggest that you change tack a bit, and aim to source a role in the medical devices sector. This is still very related to the life sciences field but there is a much greater demand for scientists with physics background in this area. Also the medical devices field is one of the fastest growing sectors within the science field in the UK and is highly innovative with a great deal of research being undertaken.

Another alternative is for you to approach companies and ask to undertake some intern based work. This will give you a chance to prove yourself to companies, get relevant experience while at the same time you will be able to decide whether you want to pursue your career in the life sciences field.


I would like to work in an industrial field but I do not have any hands on experience, do you have any suggestion of how I could get a job?

One of the biggest conundrums in looking for a scientific job is ‘how do I get a job without experience and how do I get experience without a job’. Undoubtedly it is much easier to get a job if you have relevant experience in the lab, and companies will look for either potential relevant experience in industry or in a laboratory environment.  As such when choosing your degree it is wiser to apply to courses which offer industrial experience as part of the degree. This will put you at a distinct advantage.  If you do not have this type of experience through your degree it is important that you get as good a qualification as possible, and this could possibly mean going on to do a Masters.

Otherwise in your CV you need to highlight all the laboratory work you have undertaken throughout your degree on your CV, demonstrating what techniques you have used and what projects you have undertaken in the lab. You must ensure that your CV is as relevant as possible to industry.  If you are still having trouble getting into industry I would suggest that you approach scientific companies located in your area directly and ask for voluntary internships or work shadowing. This demonstrates a willingness to gain experience and can also act as a trail with companies who, if you demonstrate the right attitude, may offer a more permanent role.


Will there be any opportunities existing for Ph.D. (Physical Chemistry) candidates in U.K.?

The scientific market in the UK is fairly buoyant at the moment and is forecast to continue to improve over the next 5 years. The government has designated the STEM sector as a National Priority Sector and as such is investing a good deal of time and resources in this field. Via such incentives as the Patent Box Tax and R & D Tax Credits there has never been a better time for the science industries to undertake research in the UK. Also we are seeing much greater training being undertaken to meet demands for future staff.

Physical chemistry is still a very strong sector. What is important when looking for a role is that you are very proactive in searching for a job.

You need to undertake research into which sectors of the science industry employ people with your skills, and then you need to approach companies directly, to find out who is the person responsible for recruiting candidates with you skills in that company, speaking to them about your background, and telling them about yourself. They may not have vacancies at that particular point and time but they will remember you for future vacancies. On occasion they will meet up to offer advice and assistance, and remember the science industry is all about contacts so they may know about other roles which are relevant to you.

Two other bits of advice, you need to be flexible when you are looking for a role. Be prepared to relocate, be flexible in terms of salary and benefits, and if the role is less demanding that you want, do not discount it as the role could be a good stepping stone.

The other bit of advice is, to look at contract /temporary roles. These can get you valuable experience while in a great deal of cases they can lead to permanent positions. Overall I would suggest that you are much more proactive than just looking at job boards or waiting for recruitment agencies to call. Approach companies directly, particularly by phone and speak to people.


I’m an international student and after I have finished my PhD next year, I’m entitled to get 1 year work visa to find a job or sponsor who can provide me with a work visa. I have in total 3.8 years work experience from the UK and overseas. What are the chances of me finding a sponsor in the chemistry industry?

It has become difficult to get a work visa in the UK, with the changing political climate. This is causing problems as the candidate pool is not expanding fast enough. Companies are still expanding and trying to recruit the highest calibre candidates, but it is becoming more difficult to get visas for the candidates and the requirements for the visas are getting tougher all the time.

It is getting much more difficult to find a sponsor for employment in the chemical industry, but it is taken on a case by case basis, and if your skills are in high demand and are scarce you have a much greater change of getting sponsorship.


If you would like to watch the webinar click here

If you are looking for a scientific job, search our latest jobs here


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Careers advisor from the RSC answers your questions

As part of our “How to build a career in the chemical industry” webinar we have had some follow up questions from the audience and also pre submitted questions that we did not have enough time to answer on the day. In order to answer these questions, we will publish written answers to these questions from the different panel members over the next couple of weeks.

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts a Careers Consultant at the Royal Society of Chemistry has provided us with very informative answers to your questions:

I‘m a graduate of Industrial Chemistry. I started my career in the lubricant industry and I have over 4 years experience in this field. I need to further my education to boost my career and I can’t seem to find any post graduate course in my field. What advice do you have for me?

I would say that further education is unlikely to help in most cases. If the roles you are applying for specifically ask for a qualification you don’t have then it might be worth pursuing but this isn’t normally the case. I would advise that you have your application checked by an experienced professional as it is more likely you aren’t selling your skills well enough. If you do decide to go for a postgraduate course then it doesn’t always matter if it’s not in the ‘right’ field – choose one which interests you.

I work in Nigeria and my family is in UK. I had my PhD in the UK. I have been looking for job in the UK both as a lecturer/research assistant or postdoc and in the industry as an Analytical/Environmental chemist but have not been able to get one mainly because I don’t have UK working experience. Please what can I do to be considered for a job in the UK. I do not have visa problem and I will be grateful for any advise.

I would speak to your network already based in the UK in academia as they will be best placed to answer your question. I would also look at which gives information on how to apply (and what to include) for academic applications. There are 4 main things they will look for: teaching experience, independent research, publications and revenue generation. It may be that interviewing you when you are abroad is tricky? Finally, I would say that it is an extremely competitive environment so it may just be a matter of time.

How can we ensure that employers are not losing valuable skilled potential employees trying to return to a more-flexible employment situation after extended parental leave?

Wow, that’s a big question, one I don’t have a solution for I am afraid. I am not sure we can, it will come down to the employer and their strategy, flexibility and willingness to employ parents. Many employers allow flexible working and there are laws in place to support parents at work. I think we need to ensure they see that parents bring value to the workplace and we (as parents) have some responsibility to demonstrate our skills to the employer too.

What maximum age is considered for a job in a chemical industry?

There is no maximum age, age discrimination is illegal in the UK and you are allowed to work until you don’t want to. We don’t see any problems at any age (in my experience).

If you would like to watch the webinar click here

If you are looking for a scientific job, search our latest job here


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Careers advice from Darren McKerrecher at AstraZeneca

As part of our “How to build a career in the chemical industry” webinar we have had some follow up questions from the audience and also pre submitted questions that we did not have enough time to answer on the day. In order to answer these questions, we will publish written answers to these questions from the different panel members over the next couple of weeks.

Darren McKerrecher, Associate Director at AstraZeneca, has provided us with some excellent answers focussing on getting a scientific job:


Is it harder for graduates who have studied Biological Science to enter the pharmaceutical industry?   Also, how related is working in the pharmaceutical industry to medicine?

We recruit many biological science colleagues across multiple disciplines.  If you are talking about careers in chemistry though, we do look primarily at candidates with recent and relevant experience in medicinal, analytical or synthetic organic chemistry as the backbone of a chemistry career in pharma.   I’d recommend you seek to identify potential gaps that an employer could be concerned about, and look to augment your interest & existing experience with activities focussed on those areas.  Short-term roles or even attending conferences would be valuable to demonstrate your commitment.  Regarding relation to medicine, most of our work as chemists is pre-clinical, but we work closely with clinical colleagues to select the best targets to work on and follow the transition into the clinic of our successes.  When successful, we often get to hear video stories directly from patients describing the impact of our research on their disease and lives – few things are more inspiring!


How can one convince an employer that 25 years plus of broad experience in the Chemical Industry is worth employing? And can add value to any employer even if the CV does not contain the required search words for computer controlled search for the perfect candidate?

I can’t speak for other organisations, but our chemistry recruitment within AZ is not done by computer-controlled search – we read application forms, CVs & cover letters.  We have recently recruited several staff with >25 years experience each in the industry.  While this was partly to fill a skills gap as part of our move to Cambridge, the primary driver was that each demonstrated a continued drive and passion to do chemistry, evidence of keeping knowledge up to date, and articulated what skills they could bring to the organisation.  It may be better to think in positive terms of what you can bring with your experience, rather than fear it may be an issue – doing the latter may come across in your application / interview and decrease your chances.


What advice would you give to a student who wishes to continue researching novel medicines on the best route into the industry? Also is a PhD essential to continue on this route.

As discussed, the right PhD can help, the wrong one can hinder.  Gaining independent research experience during a PhD in a good group in a relevant field is undoubtedly a help in fast tracking your career, but the competition is strong and there are no guarantees.  Alternative routes are to look at summer placements & sandwich years during your degree and also graduate intern schemes to broaden your experience, increase your networks and decide whether this is the right path for you.  Ultimately, we are looking for talented, motivated and flexible researchers, whether they have a PhD or not.


How late can you change careers/speciality? And are transferable skills really seen as transferable?

As I mentioned in the webcast, never underestimate how impressive the analytical skills chemist have can appear in alternative environments.  As part of AZ’s transition, many ex-colleagues have moved into new careers / specialties and are almost all making excellent progress.  I think the key aspects are (a) providing a credible narrative about why the new specialty is for you (not just because my current job ceased to exist and I need something else – no matter how true this is!), and (b) identifying examples which showcase your transferable skills so that these can be used by the recruiter to picture you in a different role.


If you would like to watch the webinar click here

If you are looking for a scientific job, search our latest job here



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CK Recruiter Supports Students at Sheffield Hallam University

Alex Tosney, a recruitment consultant based at our head office in Chesterfield, was invited to participate in a careers event with students at Sheffield Hallam University last week. Speaking to 2nd and 3rd year students who were either in the process of either embarking or completing their work placements, gave Alex the opportunity to discuss three core subjects:

  1. Career opportunities available
  2. Considering a career in scientific sales
  3. How to get the most out of your recruitment agency

With between 70-80 students attending the lecture, Alex took the time to discuss the key areas that really concerned students at this stage of their education; such as how to write a CV, how to make your cv stand out on job boards and what they can do to find work post graduation.

If you are a graduating soon and are looking for help on finding a job or writing a CV take a look at our Careers Zone where there are lots of tips and techniques to help.


Click here to visit the CK Science Career Zone

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Workplace Advice from CK Science

Here at CK Science we want to ensure that you are as happy and fulfilled in your science jobs as possible.

So, we have written the following workplace for you.  Please click on the links below!

Careers Advice

Are you looking for a new science job? Click here for our latest careers advice.

Meet the CK Science TeamMeet our team:

The specialist scientific Recruitment Consultants here at CK Science are here to help you find the perfect science job for you. To meet them, please click here.

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How to plan the journey to your interview

How to plan the journey to your interview effectively…

Victoria Walker, Consultant at CK Science gives advice as to how to plan the journey to your interview effectively.


1. Check and double check that you have the correct details:

A couple of days before your interview, check that you have the correct name, address and telephone number of the company you will be interviewing with. Make sure you double check these details both with your Consultant and on the company website.

2. If you are travelling by car…

If you are travelling by car and will be using a sat nav, please ensure that you have the correct postcode. It is also a good ideas to print off back-up maps (e.g. from Google Maps or AA Route Planner).

3. If you are going to be using public transport…

If you are going to using public transport, make sure you check the train connections and bus times prior to your interview. If there is  going to be a walk from the bus or train station to the company, try to find out how long this will take. If you need to take a taxi to get there, find the numbers of a few local taxi companies and call them prior to your interview to find out how long the journey will take and fare prices.

4. If you have any questions…

If you have any questions about the company or the interview, please contact your Consultant as they have all the resources to answer any queries for you.

5. If  you’re running late…

If you are running late? Please do call your Consultant as soon as possible as they will be able to advise the company of the situation quickly. If you interview is out of hours, your Consultant will be able to provide you with a phone number so as you can contact the Interviewer directly yourself.



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How to apply for the RIGHT roles for you…

1.       Read the job description

Read the job description in detail, from start to end. Are the location and salary right for you? Is it a contract or permanent role? Many candidates we deal with will apply for contract positions when they are only looking for permanent roles, simply because they haven’t read the job description in full.

2.       Do you have the right skills and experience?

Always check that your skills and experience exactly matches those detailed on the job description. When a skill or experience is listed as ‘essential’ on a job description, it means it’s essential!

If your CV does not mention the essential skills and experience listed in the job description, you are not suitable so do not apply. If you do apply, this could tarnish any future job applications to the company.

3.       Tailor your CV and cover letter

Highlight the skills and experience mentioned on the job description on your CV.

4.       Chase up your application and get feedback

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Want a new science job? Read our helpful tips

Looking for a new job in science? Here are a few helpful hints and tips to help you on your way…

Careers Advice


Workplace Advice


For more helpful advice speak to one of our professional scientific recruiters, contact the CK team.

Alternatively take a look at our current scientific vacancies now.

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Interview Tips: The STAR Interview Technique


One technique that is used throughout both technical and competency based interviews is that of Behavioural Questioning. This is designed to get practical examples from interviewees as demonstrations of particular skills or competencies.

In order to prepare for this during your interview preparation you should identify examples of situations from your experiences on your CV where you have demonstrated skills and competencies that you feel are relevant to the role – please refer to the Job and/or Person Specification as well as the companies website for these.

During the interview, your responses need to be specific and detailed. Tell them about a particular situation that relates to the question, not a general one. Briefly tell them about the situation, what actions you took, and the positive result or outcome. One proven way to structure your answers is using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result or “STAR”) format (please see below).

Situation or Task: Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.

Action you took: Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did — not the efforts of the team. Don’t tell what you might do, tell what you did.

Results you achieved: What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

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How to Take Control in Your Interview

meetingUnfortunately, not all interviewers are trained interview techniques. Many can be unprepared and inexperienced. Some will not ask you the right questions and manage the interview effectively to help you give the best impression.

Here are some tips to help you take control of the interview and put yourself in the best possible light:

  • Guide the interview – Perhaps offer to talk the interviewer through your CV – referring back to the job description to highlight your expertise.
  • Interview you Interviewer – If you feel the interview is floundering, don’t wait until the end of the interview to start asking your questions.
  • Be prepared – Always bring a couple of copies of your CV with you to the interview, just in case the interviewer forgets.
  • Keep calm – If you asked some unexpected questions not matter how unsuitable they might be, simply ask for some thinking time and will stop you from blurting out anything inappropriate.
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14 Signs Your Scientific Job Interview Went Well

iStock_000003154367Medium-200x3001.       Your interview lasted longer than scheduled.

2.       You are shown around the building.

3.       You are introduced to other team members.

4.       The interviewer asks you about your availability.

5.       The interviewer asks you about your salary expectations.

6.       The interviewer asks you to return for another round of interviews.

7.       The interviewer takes time to answer your questions in full.

8.       You are given a clear timeline of when a decision will be made.

9.       The interviewer spends time trying to sell the advantages and the position to you.

10.   You hear from your references that the interviewer has contacted them

11.   The interviewer demonstrates positive body language – e.g. smiling, good eye contact and nodding.

12.   The interviewer gives you clues about their professional and personal lives.

13.   Your interview covers topics beyond the science job description.

14.   The interviewer reveals their frustration with the previous job holder.

Found this interesting? See below for more career s advice from CK Science:

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Student Careers Advice

CK Science was recently invited by Sheffield University to run a cv and interview techniques workshop for the Microbiology and Biochemistry departments. The workshops are aimed at 2nd and 3rd year under graduate students and offer valuable instruction to the students as they embark on their daunting search for a job in the scientific industry. Philippa Robertson, the Senior Consultant running the course said ” So far CK has run with the applications workshop and got an excellent response from the students who seemed to really enjoy receiving practical advice tailored to science jobs rather than just general tips. I hope the interview tips workshop this Friday goes equally well”. CK Science remains committed to supporting the promoting science as a worthwhile and rewarding career in 21st century Britain

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